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Indiana Tech Law School mentors bring law to life

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At least once a month, Magistrate Judge Roger Cosbey and law student Christian Allen can be found seated at a table at Don Hall’s Old Gas House Restaurant, a hot spot for the legal community in Fort Wayne. The topic of conversation does not stray too far from legal concepts and procedures, ethical issues, and trials underway at the E. Ross Adair Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on Harrison Street.

Local attorneys and judges often stop by their table throughout the evening to enjoy a quick chat. For Allen, a student at Indiana Tech Law School, watching those professionals socialize and hearing them talk about issues they are working on has taught him how important personal interaction is to lawyers.

allencosby-15col.jpg Federal Magistrate Judge Roger Cosbey (left) has volunteered to mentor Indiana Tech Law School student Christian Allen. The two meet regularly to discuss legal concepts, class assignments and court proceedings as part of the school’s mentorship program. (Submitted photo)

The attorneys and judges, Allen said, are very down-to-earth. Moreover, they love to teach and welcome new people into the profession, he said.

Dinner at Don Hall’s has given Allen insight into being a lawyer that he, and most other law students, would not get in a classroom.

Those are the types of learning experiences Indiana Tech Law School is hoping to foster with its mentor program. At the beginning of their first semester, students are matched with professionals from the legal community who will advise, encourage and guide them through all three years of study.

Dean Peter Alexander launched the idea for the long-term mentoring program when he arrived from Southern Illinois University School of Law. He spent considerable time meeting one-on-one with judges and attorneys, talking about the law school and asking them to be mentors. The effort paid off. For the inaugural year of the law school, more than 80 legal professionals have volunteered to be mentors.

Cosbey, magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, sees some of himself in Allen and wants to provide his mentee with opportunities he did not have as a law student.

Coming from a family that had no connections to the law, Cosbey did not meet a practicing lawyer until he was able to get a summer position working for an attorney after his second year of law school. More than seeing the motions and pleadings for the first time, Cosbey, like Allen, was most impressed by the way the attorney carried himself.

“I think he was a good role model in terms of professionalism,” the magistrate judge said of his mentor. “I think that was probably the most important thing I observed.”

Matchmaking

The process of pairing students with their mentors began with questionnaires.

Members of the bench and bar who were interested in being a mentor filled out a form denoting their areas of practice, undergraduate and law school alma maters, and volunteer activities in the community. Likewise, students indicated their interests, such as in criminal law, family law or another area.

Then Ruth de Wit, Alexander’s executive assistant, put all that data into a spreadsheet. She and Alexander then compared interests and backgrounds of students and potential mentors before matching each student with a local professional.

She said the pairing was a “little bit like matchmaking.”

How the relationship develops between the mentor and the student is largely left to the two individuals. The law school asks that the attorneys and judges who volunteer for the program meet at least one time each semester with their students and try to attend a function at the law school.

Rachel Johnston gets excited every time her mentor, attorney Cathy Niemeyer, arrives at the law school to take her to dinner each month. “Best” and “awesome” are words Johnston tosses around to describe Niemeyer.

The dinner topics range from coursework and legal concepts to how to schedule time for workouts and what classes to take next year.

“She actually understands because she’s been there, done that,” Johnston said of Niemeyer. “She’s just there for me as a support. I really appreciate being given the perspective and input from someone who has been to law school and is now a practicing attorney.”

Connecting

The lunchtime conversations between Allen Circuit Judge Tom Felts and his student, Kyle Noone, probably leave little time to actually eat. Felts is a Republican, Noone is a Democrat; Felts is a trial judge, Noone is the Elwood City Court judge; Felts is a new grandfather; Noone is a new father.

“We have not lacked at all for things to talk about,” Felts said.

An interesting part of the mentorship for Felts has been its impact on him. Discussing judicial philosophy and temperament with his student, and seeing how enthusiastic Noone is about the law, Felts said it has kind of reinvigorated him.

Once a week, Tonya Bankhead sits down with her mentor, Victoria Duke, associate professor of law at Indiana Tech Law School. The two have talked about class assignments, time management, research topics, and ethics in sessions which typically exceed an hour.

“Whatever I need help with, whatever I have going on right now, we talk about,” Bankhead said.

How comfortable and helpful the mentorship has become is not what Bankhead expected. In fact, she admits that she initially hid from Duke, thinking she didn’t have time and didn’t need the assistance.

Bankhead arrived on campus confident she could handle the coursework. She holds a master’s degree in criminal justice so she is familiar with procedures, and she has the writing skills to compose essays.

Quickly, Bankhead realized, law school is “totally different.” Duke has enabled her to navigate those differences and remain comfortable even when she takes a test or turns in legal briefs longer than her classmates’ briefs.

Through watching his mentor conduct trials at the federal courthouse, Allen has broadened his interests beyond criminal law and has begun hoeing a path to his future. He is considering pursuing a law clerk post after graduation and, for this summer, has already secured a position working for a judge in the Illinois 5th District Appellate Court.

Without having a mentor, he said, “I would still think this is the best law school in the world, but the mentor program just really put it over the top and brought everything together.”•
 

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  • Sigh
    Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.
  • Mentors don't solve the myriad problems of Indy Tech Law School
    As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.
  • Excited
    have you been accepted to the law school as well for this year
  • Excited
    As someone who was accepted into the new class I am extremely happy and can't wait to start law school at Indiana Tech. I am looking forward to a new type of education as well as the 1195 days of law school I will have to go through
    • law school
      I think it is wonderful that the community is gathering together to be mentors for those who are choosing law as a career. I am recently a student at Indiana Tech, and work as a paralegal in family law. I look forward to transferring over to the law school!!!!!

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      1. OK so I'll make this as short as I can. I got a call that my daughter was smoking in the bathroom only her and one other girl was questioned mind you four others left before them anyways they proceeded to interrogate my daughter about smoking and all this time I nor my parents got a phone call,they proceeded to go through her belongings and also pretty much striped searched my daughter including from what my mother said they looked at her Brest without my consent. I am furious also a couple months ago my son hurt his foot and I was never called and it got worse during the day but the way some of the teachers have been treating my kids they are not comfortable going to them because they feel like they are mean or don't care. This is unacceptable in my mind i should be able to send my kids to school without worry but now I worry how the adults there are treating them. I have a lot more but I wanted to know do I have any attempt at a lawsuit because like I said there is more that's just some of what my kids are going through. Please respond. Sincerely concerned single parent

      2. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13) Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety. The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America. The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual reoffending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual reoffense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx? ID=247350 The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483 Conclusion. The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of noneffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates. The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658483 These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. People, including the media and other organizations should not rely on and reiterate the statements and opinions of the legislators or other people as to the need for these laws because of the high recidivism rates and the high risk offenders pose to the public which simply is not true and is pure hyperbole and fiction. They should rely on facts and data collected and submitted in reports from the leading authorities and credible experts in the fields such as the following. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 0.8% (page 30) The full report is available online at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Adult_Research_Branch/Research_Documents/2014_Outcome_Evaluation_Report_7-6-2015.pdf California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) (page 38) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 1.8% The full report is available online at. http://www.google.com/url?sa= t&source=web&cd=1&ved= 0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.cdcr.ca.gov%2FAdult_ Research_Branch%2FResearch_ documents%2FOutcome_ evaluation_Report_2013.pdf&ei= C9dSVePNF8HfoATX-IBo&usg=AFQjCNE9I6ueHz-o2mZUnuxLPTyiRdjDsQ Bureau of Justice Statistics 5 PERCENT OF SEX OFFENDERS REARRESTED FOR ANOTHER SEX CRIME WITHIN 3 YEARS OF PRISON RELEASE WASHINGTON, D.C. Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013 Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy. A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7% Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009. The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05% Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf Once again, These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so. Megan’s law is a failure and is destroying families and their children’s lives and is costing tax payers millions upon millions of dollars. The following is just one example of the estimated cost just to implement SORNA which many states refused to do. From Justice Policy Institute. Estimated cost to implement SORNA Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M. For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf. Attempting to use under-reporting to justify the existence of the registry is another myth, or a lie. This is another form of misinformation perpetrated by those who either have a fiduciary interest in continuing the unconstitutional treatment of a disfavored group or are seeking to justify their need for punishment for people who have already paid for their crime by loss of their freedom through incarceration and are now attempting to reenter society as honest citizens. When this information is placed into the public’s attention by naive media then you have to wonder if the media also falls into one of these two groups that are not truly interested in reporting the truth. Both of these groups of people that have that type of mentality can be classified as vigilantes, bullies, or sociopaths, and are responsible for the destruction of our constitutional values and the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. I think the media or other organizations need to do a in depth investigation into the false assumptions and false data that has been used to further these laws and to research all the collateral damages being caused by these laws and the unconstitutional injustices that are occurring across the country. They should include these injustices in their report so the public can be better informed on what is truly happening in this country on this subject. Thank you for your time.

      3. Freedom as granted in the Constitution cannot be summarily disallowed without Due Process. Unable to to to the gym, church, bowling alley? What is this 1984 level nonsense? Congrats to Brian for having the courage to say that this was enough! and Congrats to the ACLU on the win!

      4. America's hyper-phobia about convicted sex offenders must end! Politicians must stop pandering to knee-jerk public hysteria. And the public needs to learn the facts. Research by the California Sex Offender Management Board as shown a recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders of less than 1%. Less than 1%! Furthermore, research shows that by year 17 after their conviction, a convicted sex offender is no more likely to commit a new sex offense than any other member of the public. Put away your torches and pitchforks. Get the facts. Stop hysteria.

      5. He was convicted 23 years ago. How old was he then? He probably was a juvenile. People do stupid things, especially before their brain is fully developed. Why are we continuing to punish him in 2016? If he hasn't re-offended by now, it's very, very unlikely he ever will. He paid for his mistake sufficiently. Let him live his life in peace.

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